Log out of your Google account!

Google offers so many services and personalisation that it is tempting to log in and not bother logging out. You first connect to Google via your Personalised Home Page, look at your RSS feeds in Google Reader, and then do some Blogger work. You know that you are going to be working on one of your Google Documents so no point in logging out. If, like me, you spend most of your time working at home that is no big deal. No-one else, apart from your SO or the sprogs, are going to mosey on in to your Google ‘space’. (Actually – it might be a seriously big deal but we won’t go into the ramifications of that).

If you are at work, however, where everyone grabs a free terminal wherever and whenever they can, you could find yourself in deep doo-doo. Your arch rival, who is threatening to overtake you on the scrabble up the corporate greasy pole, fires up Google intending to read their own Google Mail but discovers that they can access yours instead – and everything else!. Google does not time you out – and neither does My Yahoo which has a similar set-up. As well as reading all that you have been up to over the last year or so, they could sabotage your account by enabling the search history and conducting “unsavoury” searches and …. well, it doesn’t require much imagination to envisage what could happen.

This can, though, work in reverse. Set up a blemish free Google account with search history enabled, log in, leave it and wait for people to pounce on your unoccupied PC for their lunch-time surfing. Amazing what you could discover. This occurred to me after Phil Bradley and I had given our ‘De-mystifying Web 2.0’ presentation at the LIS last week in Birmingham. I had logged on to my demo Google account but completely forgot to log out at the end. As I went up to the podium on a damage limitation exercise I saw one of the afternoon presenters Googling away. As soon as I was home I went in to my Google account to have a look at what he had been researching. I regret to say that it was all very boring – North Carolina State University :-(

Better luck next time.

Blog Bling

Phil Bradley has already reported briefly on the double act that he and I performed at the Web 2.0 Forum at the Library and Information show in Birmingham last week. There are no Powerpoints because we made it up as we went along – OK, not strictly true. We discussed via email the areas of web 2.0 ‘stuff’ we would each cover, and decided to adapt our presentations depending on what the other person had just mentioned. It worked! And it was great fun. Phil kicked off with his favourite Web 2.0 stuff (Pageflakes) and instead of going straight into social bookmarking I found myself talking about My Yahoo and Google’s personalised home page (about which there is a warning post from me later). Towards the end, Phil waxed lyrical about all the widgets and gizmos that can add pizazz to your blog, calling them “bling for your blog”. It is barely one week on from that presentation and I am already reading and hearing people call it ‘Blog Bling’.

So what is your favourite blog bling?

ZoomInfo fails to address quality issues

ZoomInfo has updated its business and people search engine. For those unfamiliar with the service, ZoomInfo searches and provides information on 35 million ‘people’ and 3.4 million companies. Unlike most conventional company and people directories, though, the information is gathered and compiled automatically by what it calls a semantic search engine. Content can be edited and corrected by the subject themselves, but you have to pay for at least a trial subscription in order to do it. ZoomInfo is free for basic information and advertiser supported. For full access you can upgrade to a ZoomExec account for USD 99 a month, and the full PowerSearch option costs from USD 3,950/year.

I have been attempting to carry out a proper evaluation for some time on behalf of various clients, and the redesigned site encouraged me to pay for a week’s trial at USD 19.99 for the ZoomExec service. I should make it clear right now, that I started this evaluation with a totally negative opinion of the service. My previous experiences of ZoomInfo in terms of quality have not been good and I regret to have to say that the upgrade has not changed my opinion.

The home page features three tabs – company searches, people searches and job searches via content from Indeed. There is also a tag cloud representing popular keywords used in searches on ZoomInfo. Company search and people searches by name are ad-supported: searches by keywords, job titles and other criteria are part of the priced services. One always starts an evaluation such as this using standard test searches on something or someone you know. Inevitably, then, I first did a search on myself. It found 22 people, or rather profiles. These profiles are compiled from web pages found by ZoomInfo and grouped together. Some of the profiles refer to the same person (there were four for me when I looked) but it is amazing how wrong ZoomInfo can be and that it can miss so much relevant and correct information that is out on the web.

None of my four profiles had my correct company name and the information in all cases was garbled. The most comprehensively supported profile, which was compiled from 36 web sites, has me working for TFPL. Yes, I am one of their associate trainers who they hire on a consultancy basis but I am not ’employed’ by TFPL. One could argue that it is an easy enough mistake for a poor dumb computer to make, especially as I am mentioned several times on the TFPL web site. But ZoomInfo has gone further and given me a non-existent email address at TFPL plus a Glasgow telephone number. I live and work in Reading a long way from Glasgow, but even if I did work at TFPL their main office is in London. To be fair if you are prepared to drill down through the web site references you do eventually arrive at the correct information on my own web site, but then why bother with ZoomInfo? Any half decent searcher could get there far more quickly using standard search engines and find more up to date information


If you have an account, you can set up your own public profile and consolidate existing profiles and correct them. Companies can do the same. That does not mean that the information will be any more accurate. ZoomInfo clearly states that it does not verify such information.

For company profiles, you are supposed to be able to view a list of competitors. Not a single one of my competitors were listed. Instead I was presented with a list consisting mostly of search tools: Lycos, Infoseek, Northern Light, EEVL, News Now and so on.

I tried searches on some of my colleagues and the results were even more difficult to fathom. The Advanced Search, where you can also include a company as well as a person’s name, ignored the company name. (I may have been clicking the wrong buttons or this feature may only work for PowerSearch accounts). Since I and most of my associates are running small businesses – probably not ZoomInfo’s forte – I persuaded some of my large, International corporate clients to try it out on people, companies and industries that they know. Their reactions ranged from laughter at the start, through disbelief at how wrong and out of date the data was, and finally to irritation and annoyance.

I did look at some of the other services on offer, such as keyword searching for products and services and Job searches, but I still could not find any redeeming features that would persuade me to pay money for this service or to even use the free search. There are other sources and directories out there that are more reliable and up to date, and some of them free.

Phil and Karen at the Library and Information Show

Speakers and presenters – are you fed up with conference organisers hassling you for your PowerPoint slides weeks in advance? Feel threatened by final demands for the text of your presentation? Then try ConfTalk 2.0! All you need is your brain, your list of links – on a Web 2.0 service of course – and an Internet connection*. Phil Bradley and I will be demonstrating the ConfTalk 2.0 [pat. pending] technique at the Library 2.0 Forum at the NEC, Birmingham on April 18th :-)

We are doing a double act on ‘Web 2.0 for libraries – de-mystifying the technologies’ and have agreed that anything we commit to .ppt or .doc will be old hat, defunct, or superceded by 5.0 as soon as we board the train for Birmingham. As the official conference blurb says “This session will take the form of a discussion and demonstration of a number of different Web 2.0 based products in order to give delegates a much clearer idea of exactly what Web 2.0 is, and how it can be used with a library/information centre environment.”

Further information and programme of the event.

*No Internet connection provided by the organisers? No problem. Any self respecting ConfTalk 2.0 speaker will have a laptop armed with WiFi, LAN connectivity, landline dial up, 3G and GPRS as backup. (May not help, though, if the conference is held in an underground, secure bunker but, thankfully, few are.)

Yahoo! Alpha spotted

Amit Agarwal has reported on a new version of Yahoo! called Yahoo! Alpha at http://au.alpha.yahoo.com. It has a minimalist home page, which has become de rigueur for search engines these days, and a single search box. The results page displays the usual list of web pages and on the right hand side you can opt to view results from Flickr, Yahoo Answers, YouTube, Yahoo News, Wikipedia and Sponsored links.

Yahoo Alpha

In the top right hand corner there is an option to Customise this page that enables you to remove one or more of the resources and to add your own.

I was initially intrigued by this but found it rather slow to respond and not as slick or responsive as Askx.com, which is testing out a similar approach to searching. Missing from both Askx and Yahoo Alpha is an obvious Advanced Search link. Both are in Beta and worth watching to see how they develop.


The Viewing Facilities Association UK

The UK Viewing Facilities Association (http://www.viewing.org.uk/) is a trade association representing companies which have viewing studios and services available for hire to other market researchers, (as opposed to studios which are tied to particular research companies). It sets high standards for membership such as requiring members to meet certain levels of customer satisfaction, to be members of the MRS and work to the MRS code of conduct. They must also have completed fire risk and health and safety assessments. The site contains a directory of members and is searchable by location.